Groups of workers commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day in Queens and Manhattan today by remembering workers who lost their lives over the last year and pledged to work for workplace safety rules and standards to improve working conditions across the city.
Gathering at daybreak at Queens Plaza North & 29th Street, near the intersection of Queens Blvd & Northern Blvd, dozens of people participated in a somber ceremony with Build Up NYC Steering Committee member Mike Halpin, master of ceremony for the Queens part of the Workers Memorial Day of Action, reading aloud the names of the 48 workers (LIST: http://bit.ly/2pEZ4X4) who died as their loved ones laid a wreath and flowers in the park. Construction and building service workers will gather to commemorate those lost and to recommit to work to create safer working conditions across industries.
“The loss of life on any job site is a tragedy,” Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, said. “Each day in the United States 13 people die on the job. We cannot look at these fatalities as statistics, but as individuals like EMT Yadira Arroyo, Firefighter William Tolley, and many others who have worked hard to care for themselves and their families. Unsafe working conditions won’t change until we all work together to make them change.”
This year’s commemorations marked an expression of that solidarity across industries by union and non-union workers alike, with the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, and Build Up NYC partnering with TWU Local 100, and Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors FDNY Local 2507 on the Workers Memorial Day of Action, which included the special dedication to Arroyo.
“On some construction sites, much of the personal protective equipment that we are supposed to have in order to work safe, that our employers are supposed to provide, are often scarce, if not non-existent. Even when you get them, they are inadequate for the job,” Tommy Roumbakos, a 27-year-old construction worker, said. “That’s why accidents happen. That’s why people leave home for work and, sometimes, don’t make it back home.”
Four hours later, many of the same people joined others at District Council 37 AFSCME headquarters lower Manhattan, corner of Murray and West Streets, and participated in the reading of the names of the workers who died over the last year, with a special dedication to Emergency Medical Technician Yadira Arroyo who was killed on the job on March 16th.
“Every person who is killed on the job or dies due to workplace illness leaves family and an entire community in mourning,” said Charlene Obernauer, NYCOSH’s executive director. “Our work to prevent these tragedies and pain has never been more urgent. We call on our representatives in Congress to put safety first and fully fund OSHA instead of chopping away at worker protections and training programs that could mean the difference between life or death for workers everywhere.”
Workers and advocates across industries are in solidarity and organizing for better conditions at a time when too many employers are cutting corners that lead to preventable injuries and deaths.
“As we stand here today to honor Public Employees, First Responders and all the men and women who make this city work on Workers Memorial Day, we must understand not just the services they provide but also the sacrifices which they make,” Israel Miranda, president of EMS Local 2507, said. “Every day these men and women put the citizens which they serve and protect first. Some make the ultimate sacrifice, others have less than full careers due to illness of injury. These sacrifices and dedication must never be forgotten and continued to be acknowledged by all. Especially on Workers Memorial Day!”
Workers’ Memorial Day is held each April 28th to remember the lives of workers killed on the job the year prior. For the last 32 years, members of the labor movement and advocacy groups have gathered to remember the lives of these fallen workers, and to help promote policies to help ensure that workers are able to return home safely after a day’s work.
“Today and every day, let us recommit to doing all we can do honor those we have lost at work, and to advocate for policies designed to protect the health and well-being of all workers,” Alvarez said.
Based on NYCOSH’s preliminary data, from 2016 to today, 48 workplace deaths in New York City have occurred – including New York City workers that have perished due to 9/11 illnesses. Many go unnamed and uncounted. NYCOSH’s count of NYC occupational fatalities – including deaths of NYC workers from 9/11-related illnesses – has been compiled from data derived from OSHA, NYC DOH, the John Feal Foundation, and original NYCOSH research of media coverage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the most updated data in December for 2015, the most recent year fully reported by the bureau. According to BLS, there were 162 deaths in New York State (excluding New York City) and 74 fatalities in New York City in 2015.